Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Congressman Cohen, Senator Duckworth Introduce School Bus Safety Act

July 25, 2019
Press Release
Implements commonsense recommendations from NTSB

WASHINGTON – As summer vacations draw to a close and students prepare for a new school year, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today introduced H.R. 3959, the School Bus Safety Act, to help keep students safe as they travel to and from school while also helping prevent accidents involving school buses. Their legislation would implement safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board to make school buses safer by ensuring there are seat belts at every seat and buses are equipped with safety measures like stability control, automatic braking systems and fire protection standards. The bill would also create a grant program to help school districts modify school buses to meet these important safety modifications. 

Congressman Cohen said, “There’s no more precious cargo than school-aged children entrusted by their parents for a ride to school to get a good education. The commonsense measures called for in this legislation will save young lives. I am pleased to re-introduce this legislation with Senator Duckworth to make school buses across the country safer while helping often financially strapped school districts modify their school bus fleets. We’ve seen too many deaths in school bus accidents in Tennessee and elsewhere and it’s past time we act to save young lives.” 

Senator Duckworth said, “No parent should have to worry about the safety of their children when they get on a school bus, but school buses often lack seat belts and other basic safety equipment that every parent demands Nothing is more important than protecting our children, which is why I’m proud to be re-introducing the School Bus Safety Act with Representative Cohen to help prevent accidents, make accidents less severe and implement other commonsense safety recommendations that will save lives.”  

 See the text of the bill here

The School Bus Safety Act would require the Department of Transportation to issue rules requiring all school buses to include: 

  • A 3-point safety belt, which includes a seat belt across a lap as well as a shoulder harness to help protect passengers by restraining them in case of a collision;  
  • A Fire Suppression System, which addresses engine fires. 
  • A Firewall that prohibits hazardous quantities of gas or flame to pass through the firewall from the engine compartment to the passenger compartment; 
  • An Automatic Emergency Braking System, which helps prevent accidents and crashes by detecting objects or vehicles ahead of the bus and braking automatically;  
  • An Event Data Recorder (EDR) that can record pre- and post-crash data, driver inputs, and restraint usage when a collision does occur; and  
  • An Electronic Stability Control (ESC) System that will use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to assist the driver to remain in control of the vehicle. 

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) President Cathy Chase said, “Parents and caregivers should not have to fear for their child’s safety when riding in a school bus.  Unfortunately, gaps in required safety systems are needlessly putting students at risk.  Advocates laud Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) for introducing the School Bus Safety Act of 2019, which would advance numerous commonsense upgrades to keep kids safe.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended many of these improvements, including requirements for three-point seat belts, automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control.  We urge swift passage of this essential safety bill.” 

“Our children deserve a safe ride every time, in every type of vehicle,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We are proud to support the School Bus Safety Act and applaud Senator Duckworth and Congressman Cohen for their dedication to child passenger safety.”   

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2008 and 2017, 1,241 people were killed in school-transportation-related crashes—an average of 124 fatalities per year. In November 2016, there were two high-profile school bus accidents in Chattanooga, Tennessee and another in Baltimore, Maryland that left 6 school-aged children robbed of their futures.